As a lifelong resident of Antioch, memories from my younger years take place all over the city. Some are at Holy Rosary, going to mass and playing kickball with my friends as a child. Others are in the gymnasiums of Antioch High School and Deer Valley playing basketball, or taking walks with my family out to Contra Loma in the evenings. When I look back at these times I see nothing but happiness and contentment.
But surely, there must have been a time in my life when I stopped viewing Antioch through rose colored glasses, because by the time I graduated from Dozier Libbey Medical High School in 2015, I was itching to get away. Somehow, and without realizing it, I had assumed the collective and prevailing attitude that Antioch was a lost cause.
As I got older, I was becoming aware of the crimes and problems in our city. My parents would often advise me against going to the gas station after certain times at night. It was common practice, for me and my family, to see movies in other cities because we felt that the theatre near our house was unsafe. Certain streets in town were to be avoided, and alternate routes were always in the back of my mind when driving.
Other cities began to look more attractive to me, especially when it came time to pick a college, and my desire to get out was at an all time high. Not wanting to move too far away from my family, I chose to attend UC Berkeley, a choice which I imagined would allow me to escape my roots and get away from the city that everyone thrashed.
But, at the ripe age of 21 it was made clear to me that the allure of getting out of Antioch and moving on to ‘bigger and better things’ wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as it had initially appeared. My time in Berkeley, not just at the school but in the city, too, was mixed. The prestige of UC Berkeley as an institution, coupled with my new found independence and the excitement that comes with being somewhere new, made for a rather picturesque, but not entirely accurate image.
All of the things I had grown accustomed to disliking, or seeing as negative, about Antioch were not only present in Berkeley, but often amplified. Take, for instance, the issue of homelessness. While it is not uncommon to see homeless people in Antioch, to me, it is nothing compared to People’s Park and the surrounding areas. Never before had I been followed and hollered at in Antioch, but within a few weeks of being in Berkeley it had happened several times.
After having spent a few months away, Antioch had suddenly, in my mind, acquired a shiny newness. When I came home for an occasional weekend visit, or during breaks from school, the small details I noticed about my hometown were refreshing.
Instead of the tall buildings and tight, busy streets of Berkeley, Antioch gave me the Delta, Contra Loma and the Lone Tree Golf Course, which appeared sprawling and beautiful by comparison. The plethora of small coffee shops in Berkeley offer a hip aesthetic, but they don’t compare to the restaurants in Antioch that are full of memories and comfort. Going to the Catholic Church in Berkeley even had a different feeling, because when I looked around I didn’t see the faces of people I had grown up with.
Perhaps I have attached a certain brand of nostalgia to Antioch, that all hometowns eventually assume when one has been gone for a while and the prospect of leaving becomes a possibility. Now I wonder what I wanted to get away from in the first place.
The fact of the matter is that Antioch is not a perfect city, but in the same vein, neither is Berkeley; nor is Brentwood, or Pittsburg, or Concord. Each city has its own unique host of problems, and simply moving away from them, doesn’t solve them. Complaining about where I lived, I realized, would get me nowhere. Residents of Antioch must learn to accept the city for what it is and strive to make it better instead of absentmindedly picking it apart or moving away.
While Antioch may never again be the small town it was when my parents were going up here, the Antioch we have before us today is special and beautiful, we just simply need to be reminded of this.
Antioch Resident & UC Berkeley Student